A couple of years ago, I accidentally filed our taxes before I had all the documents. My husband had worked for one particular employer for only a few weeks. We received paper documentation for that employer’s retirement account. But we never received their W-2. And I didn’t even think twice about it until Id hit the e-file button in my TurboTax account.
Whoops! This article on correcting an error on your taxes was born from that mistake.
Hopefully, you can be a bit smarter than I was and avoid filing your taxes before you get all your documentation. But what do you do if you’re missing a tax form? Here are the steps to take.
Check your list of documents
First, you should head into tax season with a general idea of the tax forms you should receive. Make sure you’ve received wage and benefit forms from every employer you worked for during the year, as well as 1099 forms from any freelance clients. These are the most basic forms.
Here are a few others you might need:
- Home mortgage interest: Form 1098
- Student loan interest: Form 1089-E
- Government payments (like tax refunds or unemployment): Form 1099-G
- Interest income: Form 1099-INT
- Distributions from your HSA: Form 1099-SA
Any money you received during the year should be documented, and you should receive a form covering that income. Of course, if you’re a small business owner, you’re responsible for tracking your own income and expenses. No one will send you those forms. But you’ll have to pull that information together before you can do your taxes.
Keep the deadlines in mind
Employers and other businesses must provide tax forms by January 31, 2022. And the 2022 filing deadline for 2021 taxes is April 18th, unless you live in Maine or Massachusetts. Residents of those states have until April 19th due to the Patriot’s Day holiday. These deadlines still apply to you, even if you don’t receive all of your tax forms in time.
This is why it’s important to know what forms you should receive and to make sure you’ve received them all by the end of January.
Don’t worry, though. If you still haven’t rounded up the necessary forms before April 18th, you have some options that don’t result in paying steep penalties. Below are the steps you’ll need to take.
Check your online account
If you haven’t received a tax form you’re expecting, try logging into your online account for the relevant institution before you start making phone calls. Neither my student loan administrator nor my husband’s mails our student loan interest forms each year. I have to log into the online accounts to access them.
This is what happened with the above-mentioned missing W-2. My husband’s former employer uses an online retrieval system rather than mailing or passing out W-2s. Except that he left their employ before he was informed of this fact.
As online portals and account management systems become more sophisticated, more institutions cut their printing and mailing costs by requiring customers to retrieve their tax information. Many will send you an email alerting you to this fact. But emails are easily missed.
So before you land yourself on hold forever trying to solve this mystery, check your online account with the issuer, if one is available. You might just find what you need there.
Call the issuer
If you can’t find what you need online, call the issuer. This could be a bank, lender, former employer, client, or another entity. Chances are, if you’re involved financially with this entity, you’ll have their contact information.
The issuer often will have sent the documents to the wrong address, especially if you moved in 2021. Be sure to keep relevant information, such as your account information, if applicable, on hand. The issuer may need to verify your identity before agreeing to reissue an important financial document.
What if you can’t get through right away, or the issuer has moved? Keep trying.
You can’t take the next step until mid-February, anyway. Remember, businesses are required to issue tax forms by January 31st. They don’t necessarily have to have them delivered before then. So the IRS builds in some time before you can start calling them about this particular issue.
Ask the IRS
If you still haven’t gotten the form you need by mid-to-late February, it’s time to call in the reinforcements. As this IRS tip sheet says, you can call the IRS, who will then contact your employer or other financial entity to get the information you need.
Before you call the IRS, you’ll need the following information:
- Your name, address, Social Security Number, and phone number
- Your employer’s name, address, and phone number
- The dates you worked for the employer, and
- An estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld the previous year
- You can get this information from your final pay stub with the employer
The IRS can send an official letter to the employer or other entity to help you get the information you need. Plus, you can at least know that you did your due diligence, and the IRS will have a record of this, as well.
Use Form 4852
If the form you need never arrives, you can use Form 4852 as a stand-in for a W-2 or 1099-R. Basically, with this form, you can estimate your wages and taxes withheld as best you can. You can base the information on your paycheck stubs wherever possible.
Why use Form 4852 instead of just requesting additional time to file? Well, every taxpayer can automatically qualify for a six-month extension on filing their taxes. But if you owe the IRS money, you’ll pay a fine and interest if you file late. This is the case even if you use the proper channels to delay your tax filing.
However, if you use Form 4852 and file by the April deadline, you won’t have to worry about the fees. When your form does arrive, you can check it against your filed tax information. If it doesn’t line up, just file a correction. Then you can pay additional taxes owed or get your additional return, whichever works out.
The good news is that if you use many popular tax filing programs, such as TurboTax, you can actually fill out Form 4852. You’ll fill out the information as if you were completing a W-2 entry. Then you check the box that says you didn’t receive the W-2. TurboTax will fill out Form 4852 for you to send in with your returns.
However, according to TurboTax, you can’t e-file a return with this form included. So you’ll have to print and send in your taxes manually. Just make sure they’re postmarked by the deadline!